Push polls. Pseudo-science. “Property rights.” The opponents to Measure C are pulling out all the stops in order to confuse and mislead the voters. Mr. Smith’s letter to the editor is such an example.
Contrary to Mr. Smith’s assertion, oak woodlands are an evolved, complex and well-adapted habitat, perfectly in-tune to the climate. Even left unchecked (for how many thousands of years?), they have not depleted or threatened the water supply. Human activity has. That is the “indisputable fact.”
But, while water quality and quantity are certainly, and justifiably, on everyone’s mind, what the Measure C opponents would have you overlook are the very real threats to air and climate that will be created if we lose more of our oak woodlands … not to mention the scenic degradation and traffic impacts that could undermine Napa Valley’s position as a premier destination and ultimately damage the local economy.
It is indeed an indisputable fact that increasing CO2 in the atmosphere is a leading cause of climate change. It is also indisputable that oak woodlands help stabilize climate change by pulling damaging CO2 from the air and storing most of that carbon in their leaves and woody mass, both above and below ground, what is known as “carbon sequestration.”
(Not only that, who hasn’t enjoyed the cooling shade of an oak tree on a hot summer’s day? That same shade helps reduce ground surface temperatures, which in turn helps keep carbon in the soil!)
A study performed by the California Oak Federation in 2008 quantified the carbon assets inherent in oak woodlands for each county in California and evaluated their future ability to sequester additional carbon. Here's how the oak woodlands of Napa County fared:
-Above and below ground carbon sequestered in live and dead trees in Oak "Woodlands": 2,257,715 metric tons
-Above and below ground carbon sequestered in live and dead trees in Oak "Forests": 1,001,057 metric tons
These figures do not include the sequestered carbon in the form of:
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-Understory shrubs: 11-21 metric tons per hectare
-Grasses and forbs: 28-31 tons per hectare
-Downed woody debris in the form of decaying logs and twigs: 5-14 tons per hectare, and
-Soil borne carbon, not including below ground tree root systems (28 tons per hectare).
Using the above figures, in 2008 more than 3 million tons of sequestered carbon was at risk of entering the atmosphere in Napa County alone, should development processes eliminate these oak woodlands and forests and their associated carbon pools. Granted, we have lost much of our oak woodlands since this study was conducted, which is even more reason to protect what we have.
Most policymakers in California recognize that oak woodlands and forests have the ability to pull carbon from the air and store it in quantities that contribute to the health and wellbeing of all Californians. And I’m sure that once presented with real data instead of pseudo-science, the voters in Napa County will agree and not only vote yes on Measure C, but continue to do all that they can to combat climate change.
Elaine de Man